Kevin Churko is a musician, engineer, producer, and mixer whose work spans the likes of Shania Twain, Ozzy Osbourne, Five Finger Death Punch, In This Moment, and Rob Zombie. With increasingly involved and complex projects always in the works, McDSP plug-ins have become invaluable to Churko as he has transitioned from HD hardware to HDX. “The only reason why I could move to HDX was because of McDSP.”
If you stray from the Las Vegas strip a few miles, you could end up finding yourself at Churko’s studio, The Hideout. From the outside one can’t tell if it’s an antique store or even an accounting office. But once inside, it’s quite apparent you are somewhere very special. With a lobby and waiting area that is comfortable, yet lavish, it’s easy to see how the studio earned its namesake.
Two mix rooms, a vocal/overdub booth, and an isolated live room are all integrated so that Churko can mix as he tracks with 2 Avid HDX systems. The walls are lined with gold and platinum records from the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Shania Twain, Five Finger Death Punch, and more. Down the hall is the vocal booth with a chair inside that looks like it could’ve been taken right out of The Tudors or Game of Thrones. Taking a step into the main mix room is like stepping onto a movie set. For me, it’s about finding faster tools of doing the same thing or doing better things. I just came up with the best lo-fi drum sound I ever have in my life, so I’m really excited about that. I’m sure you’ll be hearing that on future records.Warm lights and hues envelope the sweet spot where a decadent couch sits. Outboard gear, speakers, and monitors surround Churko’s desk. A little further behind him there’s a painting on the right wall that has swirls of color and lots of detail, including the words ‘From Ozzy, to Kevin’. A gift from Ozzy after the last record they worked on together, Churko recounts with pride. With plush walls and decorations that evoke gothic royalty, the instant vibe at The Hideout is thanks to Churko’s wife, Kemnay, who had been collecting the furniture and planning the layout several years prior to the studio installation.
Since he is Canadian, Churko jokingly recalls that when he was a kid he had to make a choice between hockey or music. It would have been an easy choice to make since he hails from such a creative family. Not only is his brother, Cory Churko, an engineer, producer, songwriter and guitarist for many acts (Kelly Clarkson, Shania Twain), but his son Kane is also taking up the family tradition of engineering, production and co-writing.
Churko began his career in audio by working with the legendary Robert “Mutt” Lange in Switzerland. “I was one of the ones lucky enough to be right at the end of the glory days of tape going right into the digital age. I took to it straight away. I realized, ‘Wow, that’s the future right there’. The stuff I did with Mutt I’m really proud of because it was just great. It was produced really well, of course. That was sort of my first really good sounding work I’ve ever done, so for me, it’s special.”
After he left Switzerland and came to the United States, Churko needed to invest in his own equipment. “Back when I was working for Mutt, he’s the kind of guy who likes to have one of everything. We got everything you guys made, and it was wonderful. We used McDSP a lot.
“When I saw that you guys were AAX DSP and I thought ‘Wow, already? That’s great’. I had problems of other companies not updating their plug-ins, and then I saw that you guys weren’t charging customers more for it and I was like ‘What? That’s not right!’. My brother Cory was using a lot of McDSP plug-ins at that time too and so I hit him up and asked ‘Hey, are you liking these things?’ and he said ‘Yeah, they’re freaking great!’. So I tried them all and I said to myself ‘Why haven’t I been using these?’. So I got them all and tried them all one by one. I had a couple of down days and was able to do a couple of mixes almost exclusively using McDSP plug-ins and it went so well I said to myself ‘This is the future of what’s going on’.”
Like many professional users, Churko needed the power of an HDX system to accommodate his workflow and his clients. “The way that I work in my business is I’m mixing and tracking at the same time. So with the all the latency problems and with the size of my sessions, I just can’t have an old school RTAS plug-in on an auxiliary channel because there is just too much latency and too many issues with that. So I really need plug-ins to be AAX DSP, and McDSP is doing that. My only concern was whether it could replace the plug-ins I had, and the answer was yes. And in some cases, better.”
After the McDSP plug-ins allowed Churko to resume working in his normal mix-while-tracking workflow, he began to find some unintended benefits of plug-ins like FutzBox.
“Before the FutzBox I was having to use a lot of plug-ins to get the same effect. It would take me quite a while to audition and try a whole bunch of things. I’d have to lo-fi it, bit crush it, and then distort it, and then EQ it again, only to come up with one sound. And then I’ve got to try another sound because I’m never satisfied with the first sound. With FutzBox, I’m actually able to flick through a bunch of presets quite fast, drastically different ones…then I can tailor that one around what I need. For me, it’s about finding faster tools of doing the same thing or doing better things. I just came up with the best lo-fi drum sound I ever have in my life, so I’m really excited about that. I’m sure you’ll be hearing that on future records.”
When he’s not in his studio or on his motorcycle, Churko enjoys watching films and hiking in Vegas when the heat is tolerable. “I do like different sporting events, but I’m not the guy to get together with the guys every Wednesday and play hockey, even though I’m Canadian by birth.”